Traveling abroad is an enlightening experience, you see humanity expressed in different forms: foreign languages, new (and sometimes bizarre) items on menus, different traffic laws (or possibly none at all). It forces you to see the world with new eyes, but, in addition, returning from an overseas trip allows you to see the familiar with fresh eyes. Your home starts to look a little different as well.
While down in Buenos Aires I was impressed and amazed by the amount of street art painted on the walls down there. Also the elegant architecture. The history. The expansive parks. It’s a magical place. The storefronts delighted me, the cafes enchanted me, the gordo cats in the park purred and rubbed up against my legs, and the trendy, determined people walking the bustling streets reminded me that the world is full of beautiful, fashionable individuals. Whether in Los Angeles or Buenos Aires, hipsters are hipsters. And they’re often in a hurry!
Now that I’m home I’m seeing my beloved Los Angeles as perhaps a foreigner would. I’m noticing all the stencils and poster art that I used to take for granted, or else hadn’t even noticed in the first place. There’s the ‘monkey with a gas mask on its face’ mural on Laurel Canyon, coming down into Hollywood from the Valley. There’s the delicious breakfast at Bluejam Cafe on Melrose and the equally delicious people-watching from its sidewalk tables. There’s the absolutely brilliant shade of blue that the sky assumes on clear, summer days, like a turquoise gem flattened and pounded into a sheet. There’s the flock of pigeons on Fairfax that take to the sky in broad, chaotic swoops and then land in military-precise rows on the power lines.
Down south it might be World Cup fever but here cars wave their Laker flags and the city is going to be consumed with the efforts of Kobe, Lamar, Pau, and Ron Artest tonight as they battle for a championship. Same energy, different sport.
Los Angeles has its own magical quality that you have to get away from it every now and then to truly appreciate.
But the differences between Los Angeles and Buenos Aires are also vast. Buenos Aires is a tall, grandly designed city with European style buildings — shotgun gray and withered — but brandishes a pulsing, Latin soul. A city that bristles with activity all night long. Los Angeles is a modern city, spread thin across miles and miles of strip mall flatland, with select pockets of nightlife that ends around the time folks are just finishing up dinner down in Buenos Aires. The sidewalks are chock-a-block with pedestrians in the Paris of the South. As the song goes, nobody walks in LA.
As much as I loved the parillas and the delicious, seemingly endless parade of meat offered, I’m glad to have a little choice back in my diet. From Milk, where the Cobb salad is a bowl of Earth’s goodness, to Loteria in the Farmer’s Market, featuring the best Mexican food this side of homemade tortillas, to the plethora of gourmet burger joints sprouting up in every trendy enclave of this city. If lacking in Fred Flinstone-sized portions, Los Angeles at least has epicurean range.
One of the other things I noticed anew returning home are the flowers. Los Angeles is a colorful city with green lawns, orange and yellow Birds of Paradise flowers, tall, sleek palms, and lavender eucalyptus trees. We may not have plazas or 1920’s-era architectural marvels, but we have the smell of jasmine whispering through the air on moonlit nights.
I’m now determined not to let my eyes go to sleep again. I want to read the names of stores in awe. I will look down alleys to see what secrets hide. I want to dine in as many restaurants as I can. I will ride LA’s public transportation like a modern day Lewis or Clark, whomever looked better in a coonskin. (well, maybe not the last one)
He viajado por lo que he vivido.